Thursday, June 23, 2011

Villagers regret discovery of minerals

MUTARE - Polluted rivers, displaced villagers and violence against
locals are all that Chinese and Russian mining firms operating in
Manicaland province have given back to communities, a public meeting
has heard.

Community members and civil society campaigners speaking at a meeting
on the worth of Zimbabwe’s mineral worth held in Mutare spoke on how
villagers had become poorer with the discovery of minerals and
entrance of shadowy foreign investors in their areas.

In Penhalonga, about 12km north of Mutare, a Russian firm mining gold
along a river basin in conjunction with a Zapu-owned company has left
a trail of environmental damage, including polluting the Sakubva River
which is the community’s main water source, residents said.

The same firm, the Development Trust of Zimbabwe in partnership with
Russian company All Russian Foreign Economic Association on Geological
Prospecting, Ozego, faced a barrage of similar criticism from
Chimanimani residents where it has been prospecting for diamonds.

Villagers from Marange, where Chinese firms are mining alluvial
diamonds in conjunction with state agency, the Zimbabwe Mining
Development Corporation, told horrific tales of miners setting vicious
dogs on locals and their livestock.

Communities expressed concern that without proper evaluation of the
minerals, the foreign firms could as well be plundering the resources
into extinction while ill-treating locals at the same time.

Representatives of civil society organisations said the government
should not be allowed to get away with statements such as “the country
is very rich” without giving actual figures.

“If we rightly know the value of our mineral wealth we can judge our
capacity to develop in terms of how much we need to extract and how
much we are capable of extracting and how much utility we can drive
from the resources.

“Therefore how much our communities can benefit from the mineral
wealth available in terms of per capita resources we can share
depending on the size of our communities,” Solomon Mumbure of the
Institute for Peace Leadership and Governance with the Africa
University and research fellow with the State University of New York
in the USA told delegates.

The Centre for Research and Development, which vigorously fights
unjust exploitation of mineral resources, organised the meeting.

“We want to allow the community to be aware of their rights in terms
of sharing some of the proceeds from what is extracted from areas
where they live, could it timber proceeds, gold and diamonds and even
black granite,” said Farai Maguwu, CRD director.

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